If there’s one food you’re almost guaranteed to find lurking in every kitchen cupboard, it’s the humble can of baked beans.
Typically in tomato sauce, this long-lasting staple is a must on toast, poured over a coated potato and topped with grated cheese, or as part of a full English breakfast.
It really is a British classic.
But there’s more to the unassuming bean than meets the eye.
In fact, beans are big business right now thanks to the multitude of health benefits they offer at a fraction of the cost of more expensive “superfoods”; a 420g tin of Tesco Baked Beans currently costs just 32p!
Rich in fibre, protein and essential nutrients such as folic acid, potassium, zinc and magnesium, we consider baked beans to be the most understated superfood.
Alex Glover, senior nutritionist at Holland & Barrett, explains that healthy eating certainly doesn’t have to be expensive, and baked beans can contribute to a nutrient-dense meal at a great price.
“Top a jacket potato (about £1 per kg) with baked beans, frozen vegetables and low-fat cheese and you’ve got a nutrient-dense meal for under £2.
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Before diving into a box of goodies, Alex says it’s best to be forewarned when choosing your box of choice at the supermarket.
“Baked beans are perfectly safe to eat every day, as long as you look for brands that have a moderate salt content, as this is the key factor you need to consider when considering beans as part of of your daily lifestyle.
“Check the label and look for ones that have no added sugar or salt,” he says.
THE BENEFITS OF BEANS
1. Full of fiber
The F-word everyone needs to know about, fiber is essential for keeping our gut healthy and happy, thus keeping us, uh, regular.
In the UK, adults are recommended to eat 30g of fiber a day, however, studies have shown that the average fiber count is 12g.
A can of beans tends to contain between 14 and 16 g of fiber, which is almost half the recommended amount.
The only downside of fiber? Too much, too quickly can lead to gas and bloating, so if you’re not currently eating a lot of fiber, increase it slowly to avoid annoying side effects!
2. May Help Increase Longevity
A high-fiber diet has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and even stroke, all diseases that can shorten our lifespans.
Plus, as Alex explains, fiber is an important factor in maintaining the diversity of our gut microbiome.
Our gut microbiome — the microorganisms that live in our digestive system — feeds on the different types of fiber we eat.
“The fiber in different foods feeds different species of beneficial bacteria, which is why it’s so important to have a varied diet.
“High-fiber diets have been linked to reductions in many metabolic conditions such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease, because fiber can help lower our blood sugar and bind to cholesterol, which helps lower blood sugar. bad cholesterol.”
We are always on the lookout for any foods that can help speed up the process of losing unwanted weight and, interestingly, beans might be one of those foods.
Alex reveals that baked beans are a very filling food thanks to their high fiber and protein content, which could prevent us from having high-calorie sugary snacks later in the day.
Additionally, the beneficial effects of fiber on our gut can also help us stop snacking, as research has shown that a healthy gut microbiome may help control our appetite.
Beans are also quite low in calories and saturated fat, Alex adds. A 100g serving of baked beans has only 155 calories.
4. Filled with protein
A can of baked beans contains 18g of protein.
Alex explains that generally humans need about 0.8g of protein per pound of body weight, so for a 60kg human that would be 48g of protein.
A can of beans then makes a pretty impressive dent in protein requirements.
Essentially, proteins make us; from our hair and nails to our body tissues to our skin.
It is necessary for virtually all chemical reactions to take place in our body.
“Protein also contributes to the growth and maintenance of muscle mass, helping to build and repair our muscles.
“The majority of our immune cells are also made up of proteins, so proteins are very important for many different aspects of our biology,” says Alex.
Although everyone needs protein, Alex explains that older people need more protein because of a condition called sarcopenia, which is the gradual loss of skeletal muscle mass as we age.
“For this reason, older people need more protein per meal to achieve a muscle response similar to younger people.”
Combining beans with rice helps create a “complete” protein; beans alone do not contain all of the essential amino acids found in animal-based proteins (like chicken and eggs), so they must be combined with another food source that contains complementary amino acids.
5. Contribute to your five days
The UK NHS recommends that everyone eats at least five servings of fruit and vegetables a day.
However, that doesn’t just mean snacking on apples, carrots, and greens.
Alex explains that 80g of baked beans (or haricot) also counts as one of your five days. So a serving of beans on toast is way healthier than you might think.
6. Immune Health
Zinc is one of many minerals found in baked beans.
“Zinc is a key micronutrient that our bodies need for a number of roles, from supporting growth and development to helping with neurological functions.
“It’s also essential for our immune system, as it affects how our cells respond to infections and can help control inflammation,” says Alex.
He explains that if you’re low on zinc, you may find that cuts and scrapes take longer to heal, you get diarrhea, and you’re more likely to get sick.
“Women need 7 milligrams (mg) of zinc per day; men need 9.5 mg.
“Zinc can be found in whole grains, seafood, meat, beans and legumes, nuts and seeds.”
Just half a cup of baked beans contains an impressive 2.9 mg of zinc.
7. Energy Boost
Magnesium is another essential mineral found in baked beans. Alex says that since our bodies can’t make magnesium, it’s essential that we get it from the food we eat.
“Magnesium is an essential mineral that has several important functions in your body.
“Your body uses magnesium in over 300 biochemical reactions and helps build bone, generate energy, keep your nerves functioning, keep your blood sugar levels stable, and fuel electrical activity in the heart and the brain,” explains Alex.
8. Heart Aid
Baked beans could also impact our ticker’s health.
Alex explains that the potassium, found in baked beans, is essential for a number of important functions in the body, including maintaining a healthy nervous system and regulating blood pressure.
“Studies show that around one in five British women do not get enough potassium,” he adds.
Increase your intake of fruits (especially dried), vegetables, beans, nuts, meat and seeds.